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Talks with Belarus will start only after Minsk abolishes the transit duty of $45 per metric ton of Russian oil going through Belarusian territory
Talks with Belarus will start only after Minsk abolishes the transit duty of $45 per metric ton of Russian oil going through Belarusian territory, a deputy Russian economics minister said Monday. Russia doubled the gas price for Belarus to $100 per 1,000 cu m from January 1, and also imposed an oil export duty of $180.7 per metric ton for the ten-million nation. Belarus responded January 3 by introducing a transit duty of $45 per metric ton of Russian oil. "Belarus's oil siphoning in response to Russia's failure to pay the illegally imposed duty resembles a trade war," Andrei Sharonov told Ekho Moskvy radio. Russia exports oil to Poland and Germany via the northern branch of the Druzhba pipeline. Poland's economics ministry said earlier Monday that oil has stopped coming through the Druzhba pipeline via Belarus. Germany also confirmed a halt in Russian oil supplies. The Russian oil transit monopoly, Transneft [RTS: TRNF], said Belarus has been siphoning off Russian oil designated for Europe from the Druzhba pipeline since Saturday. "From January 6, Belarus began tapping oil destined only for customers in western Europe from the Druzhba pipeline unilaterally, without any warning," Semyon Vainshtok, the head of Transneft, said. He said Belarus siphoned off 900 metric tons of oil in the past 24 hours alone. "In all, 79,000 metric tons of oil has been tapped since January 6," he said. Vainshtok called on Belarus to observe international norms, which outlaw transit discrimination. "Transit is a 'sacred cow'," he said, adding that Transneft was doing its best to increase oil exports through other pipelines. Sharonov also said mutual duty-free regime and low energy prices for Belarus yielded several billion dollars annually in recent years to Belarusian budget, and accused Belarus of planning to siphon off Russian oil in advance. "Belarus canceled the signed contracts on oil supplies to its own oil refineries for January. Why? Because they assumed they will make taps, unauthorized taps [of Russian oil] - this is how diplomats call what the Belarusian side is doing," Vainshtok told Russia's NTV television. The situation with Belarus resembles the energy crisis early last year when Russia, which supplies more than 25% of the EU's oil and natural gas, suspended gas exports to Ukraine amid a gas price row, affecting consumers in western Europe. Ukraine later admitted tapping Russia's Europe-designated gas.
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